Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Listening to stories is a universal tradition as old as time itself. From resounding mantras to melodic songs, from the universe of magical thinking that is India to the verses sung by Castilian women working on their looms, narrating, singing and listening to stories are all part of human history.
No culture can risk abandoning the evocative power of the word if it is to stimulate the creative mind. Effective storytelling requires voice modulation which in itself is a gamble. It is also a tradition but it must be innovative.
The voices of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Dobby, Severus Snape, Dolores Umbridge provide that originality in neutral Spanish, with a Latin American accent. The venture is produced by Audible, the audiobook website owned by the giant Amazon, with the launch of Audible Latino, in early 2019.
Puerto Rican singer, actor and animator Carlos Ponce, provides the voice which delivered in 200 different ways gives each character singulairty in the magical universe created by British author J.K. Rowling
"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", on sale since February this year, is the inspiration behind Audible Latino's first major project, making it the first Harry Potter audio book available in Spanish.
Amazon's commitment is motivated by the fact that the main audiobook market in 2018 in the United States was the Hispanic audience. Large publishers know they cannot ignore an expanding market that is increasingly attractive for its spectacular growth expectations.
Engaging this market successfully demands the use of sonority, rhythm, intonation, and inflection of that alleged international language which is laced with contributions from Castilian Spanish and bypasses the specific characteristics of an individual Latin American country, producing what is commercially known as Latin Spanish or neutral Spanish.
This is how one of the iconic characters of recent decades, Michelle Obama, who has just emerged as “the most admired woman in the world,” says, according to the YouGov pollster, who interviewed more than 42,000 people in 41 countries.
The recent biography of the former US First Lady Michelle Obama, "Becoming" or "Mi Historia", in Spanish, has so far sold 10 million copies worldwide. The narration in Audible Latino's audiobook is provided by Dominican Jane Santos, whose intonations are intimate and powerful bringing to life a story that seeks to be endearing and close to the entire market that speaks, lives and thinks in Spanish.
Audiobooks in Spanish, with a neutral (Latin American) accent, took a while to make room in the market but are here to stay, and data from specialized marketing platforms such as Audible, Storytel, Kobo and Google indicate that this format has registered a 20% annual increase in sales during the last five years.
Now that the spoken book is the fastest growing digital reading model in the publishing world, competitors seek to meet the specific demands of the universe of customers, among which is listening to a story in a tone as unified and conciliatory as possible.
The emphasis, the modulation and intensity of that neutral language manages to amalgamate - in a standardizing desire - all the Spanish languages of the Americas so that it is pleasant and familiar to the ears of any person anywhere in the continent.
According to a Bookwire Report of this year, which analyzes the market, in 2018 the accent in which audiobooks were produced in Spanish “was distributed equally between the peninsular (Spanish) and the neutral (Latin American)”.
However, the picture is expected to change over the next twelve months, with a prevalence of this global Latin American speech that has become the language of communications and entertainment in the Spanish speaking world.
In 2019, forecasts indicate that the production of audiobooks with a Latin accent will make up 60% of the total new offer in the market.
“This increase clearly demonstrates the commitment to the export of these contents to the different countries of Latin America, as well as to the Hispanic market of the United States where audiobooks enjoy a 20% annual growth continued in the last seven years,” according to Bookwire. The publishers studied by Bookwire collectively represent 95% of the entities that produce audiobooks in Spanish.
Everything seems to indicate that the spells cast on the Spanish audiobook market wont be broken, and “draco dormiens nunquam titillandis” (never tickle a sleeping dragon) will continue to sound in a voice of a magician boy with the cadences and expressions, dimensions and intensity, of that tutelary language that Latin America shares.